Destroyer on “Have We Met” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, July 15th, 2024  

Destroyer on “Have We Met”

Cracking the Code

Mar 09, 2020 Destroyer Photography by Ted Bois Bookmark and Share

Like a droll nightmare following a binge of one too many Black Mirror episodes, Dan Bejar’s lyrics will send chills up your spine and leave your lips in a rueful grin. Here are some prime examples from his new album as Destroyer, the dystopic dancefloor opus Have We Met:

“We are a room of pit ponies
Drowning forever in a sea of love”
- “Cue Synthesizer”

“I was like the laziest river
A vulture predisposed to eating off floors
No wait, I take that back
I was more like an ocean
Stuck inside hospital corridors”
- “Crimson Tide”

“You throw yourself down on the playground
Skid to a halt on the runway
You cast a poisonous look to the sun
You know it just doesn’t happen to anyone”
- “It Just Doesn’t Happen”

With lyrics as distinctive as that, there’s little wonder why enthralled fans and curious reporters long to ask Bejar about his inspirations and intentions. And yet Bejar can’t help us dissect his lyrics, even as we ravenously peck away like the vultures he sings about over the staccato piano notes and burrowing bass grooves on “Crimson Tide.” In interviews since the LP’s Jan 8, 2020 release, Bejar fielded numerous queries about the sources of, and meanings behind his abstract lyrics, and nary answered any to the inquisitor’s satisfaction.

Of course some may argue that the mysterious, cryptic quality of both Have We Met’s lyrics and musical tone is the very reason why it became indie rock’s first critical darling of 2020. What’s more: satisfying that ensuing curiosity might only break the spell of the veteran Vancouver musician’s midcareer masterpiece (this being his 12th Destroyer album, 25 years after he founded the project).

All that being said, Bejar is not playing coy for the fun of it. “It’s just not how I work,” he answers simply during an interview with Under the Radar, when asked about interpreting his uniquely quirky lines.

A better term for Bejar’s process, then? Stream of subconscious.

He strikes a similar sentiment as a listener of his own heroes’ music, explaining: “I don’t get much out of hearing a behind the scenes story, or learning some underlying details about my favorite songs.”

Speaking of which: who are among Bejar’s favorites? Bob Dylan, for one, a musician whose critical acclaim was famously all but eclipsed by his stubborn refusal to be scrutinized. During a recent podcast interview Bejar described his love for the folk bard’s offbeat autumnal LPs like Love and Theft and Tempest. But unlike Dylan’s combativeness with prying bystanders, Bejar opts for a mellower response, humbly telling Under the Radar: “I can see why some people might see it differently, and want to really dig into lyrics, especially in genres like hip-hop. It’s not for me, though.”

One thing Bejar is keen to interpret, or better yet reinterpret: Have We Met’s music in a live setting. During an extensive tour for the album, Bejar says he will practically discover those songs anew with his seven-piece touring band. After all, the process for creating the eerie, otherworldly record involved Bejar singing into a microphone connected to his computer, while sitting at his kitchen table well into the wee hours of the morning. He sent those vocals to longtime Destroyer collaborator and fellow member of the lauded indie rock super group The New Pornographers, John Collins, who handled Have We Met‘s synths and production. Collins’ haunting, late night neon-evoking qualities are sharply contrasted by Nicolas Bragg’s smattering of guitar fretting which, for instance, pierces the sleazy lizard lounge-y vibe of “Cue Synthesizer.”

Given he and his collaborators’ disparate settings throughout much of Have We Met‘s creation, not to mention the darkly ethereal end result, Bejar explains “it wouldn’t make sense to try to recreate it exactly as it sounds on the record. So we’re looking forward to working out that challenge and surprising people.”

And no, that last point won’t help fans crack the Destroyer code that has eluded them for so long. But, surely better still, they’ll be able to revel in the fresh twists of those already serpentine songs when they see Bejar and his band in the flesh onstage.

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